“Aim at a high mark and you’ll hit it. No, not the first time, nor the second time. Maybe not the third. But keep on aiming and keep on shooting for only practice will make you perfect.”
~ Annie Oakley
What’s the deal with Annie Oakley? I always thought of her as some silly gun toting caricature, probably because of the movies that make her into some sort of tomboy. Certainly not someone to take seriously. So I did a search on Amazon. I found girls’ Annie Oakley costumes for girls, but even more disturbing, Annie Oakley costumes for women, complete with ample cleavage. Is it any wonder that I didn’t take her seriously?
Sharpshooting for exhibition in shows like Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show brought Annie Oakley fame from the late 1880s through the 1920s. Her talent was developed in childhood, which was desperately poor after her father died. She was farmed out to a family as a servant at the age of 10, and there brutally beaten, starved, and possibly sexually abused. She escaped by asking a stranger for a railroad ticket.
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Although she was the most famous woman sharpshooter in the world, when she heard a woman say, “I can’t shoot a gun,” Annie Oakley told her she would teach her. She taught thousands of women to shoot, teaching them to empower themselves at a time when women did not have the right to vote. “Every intelligent woman should become familiar with the use of firearms.” She advised women to hold a revolver in the folds of their umbrella, because in a time of assault, they would not be able to retrieve the gun from their purse.
A friend of mine is volunteering at a food bank. She was forced to leave home when she was 18 and scrambled to support herself. She was frequently hungry. Friends would bring her groceries raided from their parents’ home. Now she helps others get food.
Being a sharpshooter with an incredible talent got Annie out of poverty and empowered her in the world. When she wanted to give back, she taught women what she knew. We can make a difference in the world, with our distinct gifts.